Sunday, 29 September 2019

Martyrs (2008)

 Director: Pascal Laugier

Fifteen years after escaping captivity as a child Lucie, accompanied by her friend Anna, breaks into an apparently normal middle-class home and murders the mother, father and two teenage children in a brutal killing spree. We know that this family is somehow related to Lucie's earlier captivity, which was extremely abusive and traumatic, but we are left wondering what exactly was their role, and why they kept and abused a child. Was it sexual sadism? Some form of horrific parenting? The film offers few answers, and raises even more questions as Lucie sees visions of an emaciated human-like creature that appears intent on killing her. At the halfway mark of the story, something happens that completely changes our ideas about what we have just seen, and unleashes a rather different plot, one that is extremely difficult to watch in its brutality.

I am being hazy with the details of Martyrs as it is a film best going in not knowing what will happen, as I did. The film is certainly not for the faint-hearted, and offers no real let-up from the horror it presents to the audience: no moments of humour or levity. I imagine this could be too much for even some of the keenest of horror fans. It is bleak.

That being said, it is not just torture porn (though it veers close to it). The shifts in focus in the storytelling are well done, and the central mystery at the film's heart is seeded from the beginning. It is just that once you find out about it, it carries through its painful implications to the end. This is a glimmer of hope at the end that it is not all in vain, but it is a dim one.

If you have the nerves and stomach for it, this is an interesting horror film, one of the more smarter torturous stories out there. But it is uncomfortable, deeply unpleasant, and will remind you of the horrible things humans are capable of doing to one another. 


  1. This is a film that I found hitting me unexpectedly for about a month after I watched it.

    It still does even now, but not as regularly.

  2. I thought I had commented, but it appears that I didn't.

    this is a film that still hits me now and then when I'm not expecting it. I can't imagine wanting to watch it a second time, but there are times when I appreciate the fact that I watched it.

    1. It certainly stays with you; I wonder if that is because, while not the most violence film around, the system the violence is framed within is extremely disturbing. It is also quite unflinchingly in its pacing and depiction of the violence.

      Definitely on the can't watch a second time list.